The first mitzvah in Parshas Mishpatim is Eved Ivri. Why does this mitzvah take precedence over all the others? Secondly, the gematriah ofעבד עברי equals משיח . What is the relationship between the two?
Chazal reveal to us that Hashem also fulfills the mitzvos written in the Torah (Shmos Rabba 30,9).
מגיד דבריו ליעקב חוקיו ומשפטיו לישראל (תהלים קמז יט) לפי שאין מדותיו של הקב”ה כמדת בשר ודם. מדת בשר ודם מורה לאחרים לעשות והוא אינו עושה כלום. והקב”ה הוא אינו כן אלא מה שהוא עושה הוא אומר לישראל לעשות ולשמור, שכביכול הוא עצמו משמרן ע”כ. ובירושלמי (ר”ה א ג) הביאו פסוק שנאמר ושמרו את משמרתי (ויקרא כב ט.
With the above insight, the Arugas Habosem writes that since Hashem acquired Am Yisrael as slaves as it is written ויקרא כה נה)) that לי בני ישראל עבדים, then He too must fulfill the passuk (Devarim 15,16) כי טוב לו עמך that his master must benefit his slave as an equal to himself (Kiddushin 20). That if the master eats refined bread he cannot feed his slave coarse bread. If the master drinks aged fancy wine he is forbidden to give his slave new inferior wine. If the master sleeps on a mattress with cushions he must supply his slave with the same, and not give him one made of straw. From here Chazal derive that if one is going to buy an Eved Ivri, he should know that it is tantamount to buying a master upon yourself. As Tosfos points out in the gemarah that if the master possesses only has one pillow he must surrender it to his slave.
In other words the master must lower and humble himself to the level and status of his eved and benefit him as an equal or even better than himself, instead of treating him like an inferior. With this understanding we can explain the juxtaposition of Eved Ivri to the building of the Mizbaiach, a connection which is learned out from the extra vov prefixing the word ואלה. The Keli Yakar explains that Hashem commands to build the altar from earth and not gold and silver. By doing so He demonstrates the middah of humility in order that KlalYisrael should conduct their lives in a similar fashion. Hashem describes His humility by saying אתם ראיתם כי מן השמים דברתי עמכם לא תעשון אתי אלהי כסף ואלהי זהב Even though I dwell in the heavens I lowered My Shechinah in order to give the Torah. This shows that I do not desire haughty people and therefore an altar made of earth is fine with Me. For the same reason the mizbaich did not have steps and could not be constructed with a sword for both of these hint to arrogance.
This is the connection between Eved Ivri and the command to build the mizbaich. At MatanTorah, Hashem lowered Himself to the earth to demonstrate His humility. So too one who buys an Eved Ivri must lower himself from his status of master and benefit even the sinner who was sold as a slave by Beis Din because he could not repay the owner from whom he stole.
Continuing this thought process, it follows that since Hashem acquired Am Yisrael into His service, it is considered as if He too acquired a master over Himself. By observing the Torah, Hashem must benefit us in the same way that a master must benefit his EvedIvri as it is written כי טוב לו עמך.
Now we can understand the nusach on Rosh Hashanah that we say after the blowing of the Shofar during Chazaras Hashatz היום הרת עולם . If our relationship with You Hashem is that of a father and son, then have compassion on us like a father has for his son. If our relationship with you is compared to a king and his slave, then our eyes are turning to you until You give us grace. The question is why even mention the possibility of a King and slave relationship that we have with Hashem, when Chazal tell us that being an eved to a king portrays a compromised bond as it describes our having gone astray (Kiddushin 36 on the passuk בנים אתם)? The answer is that even an Eved relationship with Hashem has its benefits because it stirs Hashem to fulfill the mitzvah of כי טוב לו עמך.
When Yaakov was about to encounter Aisav and his four hundred men He davened to Hashem ואתה אמרת היטב איטיב עמך You promised to benefit me (Bereishis 32,13). Rashi gives an explanation to the double lashon of “benefitting”. The second lashon of איטיב could be interpreted to suggest that Yaakov was referring to the mitzvah ofכי טוב לו עמך . Yaakov, in his humility said upon himself קטנתי מכל המעשים (ibid 11) that he is not worthy of receiving Hashem’s good on the basis of his righteousness. Rather, his relationship with Hashem is that of a slave to his King. However, even in such a relationship, Hashem said in the Torah that כי טוב לו עמך that the master must benefit his slave. And since you Hashem observe the Torah, You too must fulfill כי טוב לו עמך and benefit me and my family. An allusion to this suggestion that Yaakov was banking on טוב לו עמך is the gematriah of יעקב (including his name) which equals טוב לו עמך. This entire episode of Yaakov’s encounter with Aisav is מעשה אבות סימן לבנים . Yaakov’s reliance on the merit of טוב לו עמך even when he lacks the necessary merits became etched into the future destiny of Am Yisrael at his point in time.
The Medrash connects the first passuk of the parsha to another passuk from (Yeshaya 56 1) שמרו משפט ועשו צדקה כי קרוב ישועתי לבא that by keeping the judgments which begins with Eved Ivri, Hashem says that His salvation to redeem Yisrael from galus is close. We suggest that the explanation of Chazalto bring this passuk from Yehshaya and connect it to the first passuk of the parsha is based upon our understanding brought above. If we fulfill the laws of EvedIvri in a manner of כי טוב לו עמך, then Hashem will also mirror the same conduct (ה’ צלך ) even though we possess a compromised relationship with Him by possessing the title of an Eved instead of a son. This thought is alluded to in the gematriah of עבד עברי which is the same as משיח . This incredible gematriah conveys that even if we are still stranded in this long galus, we must believe that even with the lower status of being Hashem’s eved, it is certain beyond any doubt that we can still merit the redemption in our days because of כי טוב לו עמך . Let us daven even harder to make it happen.
– Rav Brazil